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Designed to be the US Navy’s long range strategic nuclear bomber, the A-3 was the largest and heaviest aircraft to regularly operate off an aircraft carrier.
In order to reduce weight so that it could operate off of smaller carriers, Douglas never put ejection seats into A-3's, requiring the crew members to bail out through an escape hatch in the belly.
When the Navy decided to put their strategic nuclear weapons in submarines, the A-3 was left without a mission. The size of the A-3 with it’s large bomb bay made it suitable for new jobs, including photo reconnaissance, electronic intelligence gathering (ELINT) and aerial refueling.
While several A-3's were fitted out to combine the roles, like ELINT and tanking, this sample was a dedicated tanker.
The A-3 served on carriers until 1988 and were finally withdrawn from service in 1991. Since they were retired from military service, their size and performance have made them excellent test beds for new radar and weapon systems with several companies.